Review

The Boy From Baby House 10: From the Nightmare Of A Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America

Alan Philps and John Lahutsky

I have heard stories (twice told) similar to those so simply and
strongly narrated in THE BOY FROM BABY HOUSE 10. I mention this
only so that if you pick up this book, you will have no doubt that
what you are reading is true. This is an important work that serves
as a reminder of the power, strength and resiliency of the human
spirit.

“Baby House 10” is the nomenclature given to the
institution where John Lahutsky was “housed” (if you
can call it that) in a section reserved for severely handicapped
children. Born with cerebral palsy, John (aka Vanya) was abandoned
to the orphanage by his mother when he was 18 months old and spent
the better part of the decade there. It is hard to guess what his
fate would have been if not for the intercession of angels. Angels?
Yes. There is no other term that can properly apply to a young
Russian woman named Vika, who first noticed Vanya in Baby House 10;
Sara Philps, the wife of a British journalist living in Russia (and
who himself is the co-author of this work); and Paula Lahutsky, a
United States citizen living in Pennsylvania, who ultimately
adopted the boy.

The third-person narrative starts with Vanya’s earliest
memories and alternates with the perceptions of Sara and Vika as
they first encounter the child and then begin, almost immediately,
the nightmarish process of liberating him from the institution and
finding him a home. A warning: early on, THE BOY FROM BABY HOUSE 10
is rough sledding. Even though there is a happy ending for
Vanya/John, the description of his early childhood will give you
walking nightmares, especially when you come to the realization
that many, if not all, of the other children he describes do not
experience the happy fate he did.

The casual cruelty that is related as occurring on a day-to-day
basis is stunning as is the Kafkaesque procedures that Vika, Sara
and, ultimately, Paula have to experience in order to get each step
of the procedure off of square one. I found that I was only able to
read a few pages at a time. This was not due to any shortcoming of
the narrative, which is appropriately straightforward and
matter-of-fact, but the result of my own inability to deal with
what was casually inflicted upon these people. Again, I’ve
heard these stories before, but this book gives them a new --- and
very frightening --- clarity.

John is now a high school honor student and a Boy Scout. THE BOY
FROM BABY HOUSE 10 tells the story of an arduous journey and a
triumphant arrival, an arrival not without pain --- and not without
love.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

The Boy From Baby House 10: From the Nightmare Of A Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America
Alan Philps and John Lahutsky

  • Publication Date: September 29, 2009
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312576978
  • ISBN-13: 9780312576974